One of the best things you can do as a parent is encourage your children to serve. From a young age, look for opportunities where they can do something selfless for others.
Lots of research has been done, but very few scientists would say that humans tend toward selfish behavior naturally. The same is true regarding selflessness. While humans may tend toward doing whatever is necessary to ensure survival, how a person gives of them self is learned through relationships. A child does what they see modeled for them.
Selfish behavior is not always easy to identify. When a child takes a toy from another child because they don’t want them to have “their things,” selfishness is evident. Correction is made, apologies given, but the root is still there. As parents, we bring correction, but we don’t always model the behavior we hope to see repeated.
Many children hear the mantra, “Do as I Say, not as I do.” That’s not the way it works. In truth, it works like this: child sees; child does; child is corrected. Often, this is where it ends. But without vision, guidance, instruction through example, behavior doesn’t change. Children are the greatest privilege of a parent. In them, you glimpse the heart the Father has for His children. You see His love for you.
Throughout scripture, Christ exemplifies a heart of service to those He encountered. He told His disciples that He came, “to serve, not to be served.” (Matt 20:28) and, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (John 13:15) Christ desires that His followers serve others, so He showed us how to serve again and again. It was a constant throughout His ministry. The Gospels are a testimony of His selfless service to all mankind. He didn’t simply tell His followers how to live, He showed us.
As parents, if we want our children to be selfless, we should be selfless like Christ. There is no greater example. Teach them to serve. Serve alongside them. They aren’t too young or too old. This is the time to start. Encourage them to give as Christ gave, then show them how He gave. They may surprise you at how easily they adopt the heart of a servant when they see Christ alive in you.